Boca Grande is a small residential community on Gasparilla Island, a scant 15 minutes south of Englewood. The name, Big Mouth in Spanish, came from the waterway at the southern tip of the island called Boca Grande Pass. The waterway was used as a busy shipping area for loading processed phosphate via the Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railroad at the dock located at the southern portion of the island.
The railroad, which was completed in 1907, not only brought phosphate onto the island but also wealthy people from up north. Then the idea of developing the island into more than just a port started to take shape. The railroad station, roads, sidewalks, and a post office were built.
A few wealthy families from up north bought land and built winter residences on the island. The railroad continued to bring the visitors to the island until the Boca Grande Causeway was built in 1958. In 1979 the phosphate port closed with the phosphate companies switching their interests to ports in Tampa and Manatee County.
The community purchased the old railroad line and converted it to a new use, the popular Boca Grande bike path, restricted to pedestrians, bicycles and golfcarts. Electric golf carts have become a preferred mode of transporation around the island - most streets are golf cart friendly - and youngsters over the age of 14 are legally allowed to operate the vehicle.
The railroad depot was restored in the 70's and now houses a number of shops, a restaurant and offices. The downtown area has several historic sites within walking distance of the restored depot or you can rent a bicycle or golf cart in the area.
Located on Park Avenue in the center of town is the Sam Murphy Park, a great spot to sit and relax in the shade.
The small park was created by the Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association and named after local environmentalist Sam Murphy.
Built in 1950, the Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church on Park Avenue, is one of the most photographed places on the island. Spend some time inside the church enjoy the stained glass windows the art pieces there.
A block south of the church is 2nd Street, commonly known as Banyan St because of the rows of banyans trees planted in the early 1900's by Peter Bradley, one of the original builders of Boca Grande. Hurricane Charlie destroyed one tree and damaged others, but the street is still very impressive to see.
The Boca Grande Marina is the home of Millers Dockside and many a luxury yatch is berthed at the dockside on any given day..
The Johann Furst Community Library, an Old Florida style pink building, has large wooden entry doors that are replicas from a mosque in Istanbul.
The magnificent gardens can be seen through the open main doors of the library.
This is an ideal place to just relax, leaf through a book or magazine, and contemplate what you are going to be doing for the rest of the day.
Boca Grande beaches, from the southern tip to 17th St., were replenished in 2008 resulting in a beach at least 150 feet wide.
The largest of the beaches are at the southen end of the island as is the Boca Grande Lighthouse Museum.
On your way to the Boca Lighthouse you will pass the Boca Grande Range Light, just south of First Street on the Gulf.
The Range Light was built in 1881 and used in Lewes, Delaware, and was decommisioned in 1918.
The lightweight structure was moved by rail to Miami and finally to Boca Grande and reassembled in 1927.
The light was relit in 1932 and continues to remain in service guiding vessels into Charlotte Harbor via the Boca Grande Channel.
Built in 1890 by the U.S. Lighthouse Service, the Boca Grand Lighthouse marks the entrance to Charlotte Harbor and is the oldest building on Gasparilla Island. It is not only a functioning lighthouse but also houses a museum that is open to the public. The county took over ownership in 1972 and it was restored in the mid-1980's.
In 1980 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Perhaps Boca Grande is best known as the "Tarpon Capitol of the World", with boats filling the waters during the summer months hoping to hook into a "Silver King". Tarpon tournaments occur around Mother's Day and both men and women enter the events.
The picture on the right was taken of a huge mural downtown.